First place in the conference, and subsequently home-court advantage throughout the OUA playoffs, is on the line when the Windsor Lancers (18-1) and Laurier Golden Hawks (17-2) women's basketball teams meet on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. in Waterloo for the OUA.tv Marquee Matchup.
The Golden Hawks shocked the Lancers when the OUA West Division rivals met back on Jan. 17 in Windsor. Laurier defeated Windsor 60-53 in the Lancers first home loss since November 2010; it was also snapped Laurier's 18-game losing streak against Windsor dating back to 2007.
Though the Golden Hawks lost to Lakehead just over a week later, the team set a new program record for wins in a season, eclipsing the previous mark of 15, and is looking to prove their win against Windsor wasn't a fluke.
"It certainly builds confidence knowing that you have beat them," said Laurier head coach PAUL FALCO. "It might be tougher now, knowing that Windsor will be on their game and focused on not letting that happen again. We just have to take it as any other game, and if we can play our best we'll give ourselves a chance to win."
Falco was also eager to shake off any perceptions that the previous game established a changing of the guard in the conference's balance of power .
"In my mind, until someone knocks off Windsor (in the playoffs), they still have to be the favourites. They've been there before and know what it takes. Even though we beat them, it only counts as one game in the standings. We have lots to do to overtake them," he said.
It would be easy for Lancers head coach Chantal Vallée to preach about the importance of getting revenge on Laurier's home-court, but the coach who has led her squad to four consecutive national championships is downplaying that aspect of the rematch, instead focusing on what her team needs to do.
"We want to make sure we finish the (regular season) on a high note and get that win," she said. "What's important for us is to go get a win. We are focused on ourselves."
Vallée also expressed her respect for the Golden Hawks, and the excitement about facing a team of their caliber.
"Laurier played extremely well against us. They showed they are one of the best teams in the country and played the game to win, and we didn't – simple as that. (The rematch) will prepare us well for the playoffs."
The game against Laurier remains the Lancers only blemish this season, and they have won nine games in a row heading into Saturday, while Laurier is currently riding a five-game winning streak.
Windsor guard Korissa Williams scored a team-high 19 points in the loss to Laurier and is averaging 18.8 points per game this season – third highest in the conference – for a team that averages a conference best 80.7 points per game.
Laurier ranks third in the conference averaging 71.7 points per game, led by centre Whitney Ellenor's 15.8 points per game.
With OUA's new playoff format, which seeds 12 qualifying playoff teams based on RPI, the winner of this game will have the top RPI and home-court advantage in the OUA Women's Final Four, should they win their quarter-final game. Both teams, along with two of the other top-four seeds in the conference, will receive a bye through the first round of the OUA playoffs.
For the past few seasons Windsor has dominated conference play, but a regular season loss has set up one of the most anticipated and important regular season finales in recent memory.
Tipoff is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Laurier Athletic Complex in Waterloo, Ont. Tickets for the game are just $1 and children under 12 are free. If you can't make it to the game, watch it live on OUA.tv!
Marquee Matchup By the Numbers
52.4 – Points per game allowed by the Windsor Lancers, the fewest in the conference. The Laurier Golden Hawks also play stingy defence, though. They come into the game third in OUA allowing 54.5 per game.
8.9 – Rebounds per game for Laurier centre Whitney Ellenor, the fourth-most in OUA. Guard Andrea Kiss is the Lancers leading rebounder, grabbing 6.9 per game.
0.587 – The RPI score of the Windsor Lancers, who are currently first in OUA. The Golden Hawks, at 0.566, are second in the league and a win against Windsor would propel them into top spot.
- courtesy of the OUA